Premise: Reporting on the still unresolved abduction and murder of statesman, Aldo Moro, by the Red Brigades back in 1978—or in their name—the Rome sometimes left-wing investigative magazine, Espresso, reported that the USA and many European leaders considered Premier Moro’s project to bring the Italian Communist Party (PCI) into the Rome government destabilizing and of the utmost danger to European security. On both sides of the Atlantic, Premier Moro was considered an obstacle to be removed at all costs.
Today, forty years later, Europe (this time the European Union, EU, is perplexed as to what to do about Italy. Yesterday, Communism threatened in Italy; today, Fascism is taking root in that land south of the Alps where the lemon trees bloom. Yesterday, European nations feared that Italian Communism was contagious; today, Italian Fascism is instead part of a spreading and contagious Fascism, of which a full-blown Fascist Italy would be the leader: the disease of Fascism spreading from the focal point in Ukraine, to Poland, and south to Hungary, and southwest to Italy, Europe’s third economy, the world’s seventh or eighth, while fascistic movements in neigboring countries grow.
In January of 2018, four decades after Moro’s murder in which the USA was surely involved, the US government opened to the public 372 secret cables between the US Embassy in Rome and the State Department in Washington about the Affaire Moro. Certainly a small number for a case of such relevance: the murder of the Prime Minister of one of the chief US vassal states. Washington must have thousands of still secret communications between the State Department and the US Rome Embassy concerning Premier Aldo Moro.
Nonetheless, 35 files divulged by Wikileaks and Espresso sufficed to reveal the sordid nature of US international relations of that historically recent past and permit the reconstruction of Washington’s fear of the Communists of the PCI led then by Enrico Berlinguer and its entrance into the Rome government of 1978.
Espresso Magazine cited a cable of January 1978 which describes a Christian Democratic leadership moving “slowly but inexorably in the direction of more and more concessions” to the force of a Communist party supported by one-third of the Italian electorate and the powerful left-wing trade unions. Moro’s so-called “historic compromise” of the Christian Democrat government with the dreaded Communists infected not only the air of the Italian peninsula but also faraway lands beyond the Alps and Italy’s seas.
Governments of France and Spain—with their strong Communist parties to deal with—were uneasy at the time, aware that they were not immune to contagion from a Communist-leaning Italy. In that fateful year of 1978 the government in Paris confessed extreme concern: “If the PCI enters the government in Rome before French elections in March, there would be a deep echo in France.” According to Espresso the US Ambassador in Paris wrote to the State Department that the Secretary General at the Elysée Palace blamed the Italian Christian Democratic Premier Aldo Moro “who is convinced there is no other political solution today in Italy without the PCI.” Likewise the then German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt was critical of Moro and his agreements with the Communists.
When then American diplomats (and CIA, which at the time claimed it “ran things in Italy”) spoke with the insiders of Italian politics such as the prominent right-wing journalist Indro Montanelli about the concern in the US and European capitals they concluded that the situation in Rome was calamitous and would spread like flood waters across Europe.
Montanelli, the PCI and Pinochet
The popular Italian historian, writer, journalist, Indro Montanelli, preferred the Fascist General Pinochet at the helm of the Rome government rather than Communists. In a cable with the title “Montanelli sees blood in arrival”, US diplomats reported to Washington the “tactics” proposed by Italy’s ambiguous right-wing journalist, so beloved by Liberals: he suggested blackmailing the Christian Democratic Party (DC) which was about to make concessions to the Communists; force Berlinguer to return to hardline policies which would surely ignite a civil conflict in which the PCI would be destroyed. Blackmail? The DC would be terrified by threats to reveal to the public the US funding for that party since WWII, while the threat of the PCI’s return to its revolutionary roots was real to most people.
Montanelli saw blood flowing in the streets of the Bel Paese. Indeed, a difficult time for all. But, he concluded, the PCI would be defeated. Such was his fervent dream. The mystery however, even according to Montanelli, is what would then happen within a victorious Christian Democracy. Perhaps Italy would create a “democracy like that of General Pinochet in Chile with a strong military component. A hellish prospect,” US diplomats reported in January of dramatic 1978 … BUT still better than a governmental alliance with the Communists. According to the famous journalist Montanelli, “an authoritarian government of the right would be more desirable than a government with communists.” At that point the die was cast. Moro had to be eliminated.
Indro Montanelli described himself as an “anti-communist, anarcho-conservative”. During the Fascist era he supported Italian colonialism in East Africa and Libya: he was a Fascist though he acquired the designation of “post-Fascist or neo-Fascist” in the post-war when official Fascism was outlawed. As a journalist he tried to disengage himself from public affairs and declared himself and his newspaper, Il Giornale, supporters of the “little man”, something like the class on which President Trump finds his base today. Montanelli obscured the difference between Fascism and anti-Fascism (the antifa of today) and between right and left as per the nouveaux philosophes like Levi-Strauss in France. Thus he shared with them the creation of a gray zone between the leading ideologies of last century.
Of March 16, 1978, the day the Italian statesman was abducted by the Red Brigades and his four-man bodyguard massacred, when all of Italy was in tumult—media, police, people—not one single cable leaving the US Embassy on Rome’s Via Veneto was made available, The missing cables that could explain the Italian triangular mysteries reigning in America’s complex vassal state last century: the true identity of the still beloved Red Brigades of 1978; the truth about American-linked (read financed and guided by Washington) DC-led government of Italy; and the dire future of Europe’s biggest Communist Party, the PCI.
The ensuing situation related to three “parties”: the “armed party” of the Red Brigades and those great powers they represented; the US-supported and run Christian Democracy; and the Italian Communist party with one-third of the national electorate behind it. I have placed the Red Brigades (BR) in the first position since they appeared as the principal actors-instruments—and the Lee Oswald-like patsy in the Moro assassination.
The original Red Brigadists had been infiltrated, arrested and safely tucked away in Italian penitentiaries. Some years afterwards, one of its two original founders, Alberto Franceschini, told me in my Rome apartment that the Italian secret services could easily have “arrested us all years earlier but we were convenient and left in place.” As ISIS is today, I would add. The rump of the BR after the arrest of the original Brigadists was under US control. The leadership of the new Brigades had become an asset of CIA and Italian secret services.
Behind the scenes, much of the “terrorism” by right and left organizations raging in Italy and Germany was orchestrated by the NATO-organized Gladio secret army and the P2 secret masonic lodge headed by the self-vaunted Fascist Licio Gelli on which, like the Bilderbergers of today, top Italian leaders of all shades were members.Therefore it is no longer a surprise that in early 1978 the CIA, Italian secret services and their rump Red Brigades tool pulled off the abduction of the decade. After a farcical two months-long manhunt while official Italy hypocritically debated whether or not to negotiate Moro’s release with the BR, the Premier’s body was found stuffed into the trunk of a car, left, ironically, a few steps from Communist Party headquarters near Piazza Venezia in the center of Rome. The CIA had so decreed.
After Moro’s abduction and the slaughter of his escort, Montanelli wrote in his Il Giornale Nuovo on March 17, 1978: “Naturally we hope this tragic adventure will end in the best of manners. But as Italian citizens we cannot and must not offer the spectacle of a State that negotiates its prestige, its authority, its duties with ideological criminals just because the survival of one of its exponents is at stake. The higher the political exponent, the more necessary it is that they are subjected to the common rule: one does not negotiate with terrorists.” So Montanelli, who allegedly escaped execution in German Nazi jails in miraculous if not suspicious ways—maybe himself a snitch, some suspect—condemned Moro to die for a yet to be executed plan.
The Christian Democrats had been in power since 1946, put there at an enormous, incalculable cost to the American taxpayer. After already over thirty years in power, their rule continued, longer than the official Fascism of Mussolini. Falling governments, newly constituted government coalitions and Prime Ministers lasted an average of eight months. Giulio Andreotti was Prime Minister seven times and spent sixty years in Parliament during which time he was accused and subsequently acquitted of cooperation with the Sicilian mafia and became famous for his quips, such as: “Power wears out those who don’t have it.” Il potere logora chi non ce l’ha.
No less than their US financiers, the main body of the DC could never consider the idea of Communists in their government. Moro had to go: no negotiations with terrorists was the hypocritical decision. In reality, the decision had to have arrived from higher levels. That is, from Washington. But since the BR had been disowned by the Communist Party almost from the start, whose terrorists were then the Red Brigades? The answer is: the Red Brigades then belonged—maybe not anima e cuore, heart and soul—to Italian secret services and to CIA. And that remains an important point. Because of the Cold War it was easy for Christian Democrat-CIA power in Germany to write off the Red Army Faction (RAF) in Germany—which was shattered in the same late 1970s—RAF was allegedly an instrument of the East German Stasi, the State Security Agency. That is another story … and in my opinion not true.
Why is this history of four decades ago important? It is important because a nation’s history reaches into and affects the present. Though on the one hand the world in 1978 seemed to have never had it so good, on the other hand Saigon had fallen to the Vietnamese in 1975, in effect confirming the defeat of the USA in Southeast Asia. The fake Cold war raged and fear of Soviet victory in Europe was kept alive by new Western propaganda machines. The specter of Communists at the helm in Italy—and perhaps a domino effect in Germany, France and Spain—haunted the US State Department. Communism lived and thrived and, as contradictory as it sounds, to the delight of Western propagandists. For the existence of Communism has always justified the innumerable institutions of anti-Communism, enormous “defense” budgets and military occupation of West Europe.The media and part of academia had the same field day with anti-Communism forty years ago as they do with Islamic terrorism today. Democracy? Maybe it cannot be saved. Maybe it does not even exist. No matter. “Our freedoms” come first. Fear of Communism spread while the Berlin Wall stood there like a familiar, almost comfortable reminder of the great Satan, the “evil Empire” in the East. Power on both sides of the so-called Iron Curtain just loved the Berlin Wall built by those evil dastardly Communists lurking behind it.
The stability of that world was nonetheless shaky. The West was engaged in more serious matters than democracy: capitalism searched desperately for new markets for its survival. America’s expansion however was hampered by the nuclear-armed evil empire behind that wall in Berlin. The USA ousted from Southeast Asia, the British Empire out of India, the French out of North Africa. The whole globe whirled. Where it would stop nobody knew. Neither the US government, nor the CIA, nor European Communists even imagined a traitorous Gorbachev coming to power in Russia. No one suspected that the dissolution of the USSR was just around the corner. No one would seem more surprised (and I sometimes believe disappointed) than the CIA.
Meanwhile in Italy the Moro case did not die. In the post-Moro period the Italian government was reduced to asking Americans for information about the Red Brigades, another sign that the re-made rump terrorist group (that I find difficult to refer to as Red Brigades) had become, I believe, a CIA -American appendage. Strange personae populated the Italian political stage. The silence of the US and Italian governments about their Red Brigades created widespread speculation in Italian political circles. The then US Ambassador in Rome, Richard Gardner, answered official Italian requests for information about the Red Brigades saying that the “US government has not furnished any substantial information about the Red Brigades because we have no information: we do not gather information about terrorists here … nor do we have the capacity to do so.” That pure lie in a Rome, with one of the biggest CIA stations in Europe! Nonetheless, there were no objections or follow-ups from the Italian side.
Moro died. His murder changed the political complexion of Italy. One can only speculate about what the effects of Communists in the Rome government in that period might have been. Yet time excluded doubts. For in any case the beloved PCI died a decade later. Still, the successors to the historic compromise with the PCI could have developed differently. And Italy and its Communists might have emerged from Montanelli’s gray zone more intelligently and left a more leftist legacy in Rome than the fascistic government of today run by new European strongman, Matteo Salvini.
GAITHER STEWART Senior Editor, serves as The Greanville Post European correspondent, Special Editor for Eastern European developments, and general literary and cultural affairs correspondent. A retired journalist, his latest book is the essay asnthology BABYLON FALLING (Punto Press, 2017). He’s also the author of several other books, including the celebrated Europe Trilogy (The Trojan Spy, Lily Pad Roll and Time of Exile), all of which have also been published by Punto Press. These are thrillers that have been compared to the best of John le Carré, focusing on the work of Western intelligence services, the stealthy strategy of tension, and the gradual encirclement of Russia, a topic of compelling relevance in our time. He makes his home in Rome, with wife Milena. Gaither can be contacted at email@example.com. His latest assignment is as Counseling Editor with the Russia Desk. His articles on TGP can be found here.
Originally published in The Greanville Post
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